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First US DOE Hydrogen Earthshot grants issued

12 July 2021 Kevin Adler

A month after launching the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced on 7 July that grants of $52.5 million have been made to 31 projects to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies.

"Part of our path to a net-zero carbon future means investing in innovation to make clean energy sources like hydrogen more affordable and widely adopted so we can reach our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in a statement.

The goal of the Earthshot program is to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen from the current level of about $5/kg to $1/kg. This could be through processes using renewable power for electrolysis (green hydrogen) or fossil fuels and carbon capture to neutralize carbon emissions (blue hydrogen).

"These projects will put us one step closer to unlocking the scientific advancements needed to create a strong domestic supply chain and good-paying jobs in the emerging clean hydrogen industry," Granholm said.

Hydrogen can be used as a source of energy either in fuel cells or burned like a fossil fuel. Fuel cells are considered especially promising, according to DOE, because the byproducts of hydrogen use are water and heat (no carbon emissions), and its efficiency can be as high as 65% with current technology, or about double that of gas-fired power turbines.

Nineteen of the hydrogen projects ($36 million) are being funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), including improved manufacturing through electrolysis and biological approaches, fuel cell applications, and refueling technology. Twelve of the projects ($16.5 million) are being funded by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and these include work on carbon capture from steam methane reforming, development of a gas turbine combustion system for various mixes of gas and hydrogen, and studying the performance and durability of materials used in the manufacturing process.

Several of the EERE projects focus on heavy-duty applications, including grants to General Motors and NeoGraf Solutions, each for fuel cell bipolar plate technology; Caterpillar for use of hydrogen in internal combustion engines; and Eaton Corp. for high-efficiency and transient air systems for truck fuel cells.

One example of an FECM project is a grant to Tallgrass MLP, a gas pipeline operator, for just under $1.5 million. Tallgrass has proposed to "design a commercial-scale carbon capture unit capable of separating and storing 1.66 million tonnes/year of 95% pure CO2 with more than 97% carbon capture efficiency" at its Blue Bison plant in Wilmington, Illinois. The system would produce up to 220 million cubic feet/day of hydrogen at 99.97% purity, according to Tallgrass.

IHS Markit has estimated that the cost of blue hydrogen with carbon capture or the use of renewable natural gas already can be below $2/kg.

Posted 12 July 2021 by Kevin Adler, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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